Why is it always about a public official’s house? First it was Joe Ganim and then John Rowland and … and … and … could it be Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, the outgoing ringmaster of the Barnum Festival?
Well, federal law enforcement officials allege that James Botti, a Shelton developer, was a ringleader that larded up a public official in exchange for favorable treatment. Botti has been charged with conspiracy to defraud the citizens of Shelton, bribery of a public official, mail fraud, conspiracy to structure cash deposits, and two counts of making false statements to agents of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation.
The indictment released on Monday alleges that Botti made a monetary payment and provided favors and benefits to an unnamed Shelton public official (identified as Public Official #1), to reward and induce the official to support a project Botti was pursuing on Bridgeport Avenue in Shelton. The indictment claims the public official then exerted influence over the Shelton Planning and Zoning Commission to get the project approved.
Why am I paying attention to this Shelton story? Yes, because the indictment claims that the funny business had occurred as early as 2002 when the Bridgeport corruption case (with me in it) had already exploded all over the front pages, and yes Lauretti served as Barnum Festival ringmaster this year. Lauretti, it turns out, had some improvements going on at his home during the period in question. Now I hope Lauretti has nothing to do with this case (he says he doesn’t), but it’s just too juicy not to speculate considering what was going on in Bridgeport at the time, and government allegations.
The government is going to charge a public official in this case–it’s just a matter of time. They may want Botti to sweat this out a bit; let him think about it to see if he wants to cooperate. He obviously hasn’t been in the mood to cooperate. He’s got a good lawyer in Willie Dow, the attorney that represented Rowland.
It’s amazing to me considering what was going on in Bridgeport publicly, that a state senator like Ernie Newton would have his hand out just weeks after the Bridgeport corruption case hit the front pages and now this Shelton case with allegations covering the period that the Bridgeport case was all over the front pages of Connecticut papers. When it comes to greed, let’s just say that even the highest-profile corruption cases will not deter some pols from getting their split. So it goes. If you’re wondering, I’m glad those days for me were long ago.
Some food for thought: heralded Shelton developer Bob Scinto has said repeatedly that he won’t do business in Bridgeport again because the city’s corrupt. Okay, now that this Shelton news has surfaced can we convince Bob to come back to Bridgeport?
News release from U.S. Attorney’s Office.
SHELTON DEVELOPER CHARGED WITH BRIBERY, CONSPIRACY, FRAUD, STRUCTURING DEPOSITS, AND LYING TO IRS AGENTS
Nora R. Dannehy, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that a federal grand jury sitting in New Haven has returned a seven-count Indictment charging JAMES BOTTI, 45, of Maple Avenue, Shelton, with various federal offenses relating to his alleged participation in a public corruption scheme that began in 2002. The seven-count Indictment charges BOTTI, a Shelton developer, with conspiracy to defraud the citizens of Shelton, bribery of a public official, mail fraud, conspiracy to structure cash deposits, structuring and two counts of making false statements to Special Agents of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division.
The Indictment was returned on November 6 and unsealed today. BOTTI was arrested this morning by federal law enforcement agents at his home. He appeared this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Joan G. Margolis in New Haven and was released on a $200,000 bond.
The Indictment alleges, among other things, that BOTTI made a monetary payment and provided favors and benefits to an unnamed Shelton public official – identified in the Indictment as Public Official #1 – to reward and induce the public official to support a project that BOTTI was developing at 828 Bridgeport Avenue, and also to use his influence with the Shelton Planning and Zoning Commission. The Indictment alleges that BOTTI obtained approval for his 828 Bridgeport Avenue project after a second vote that occurred before the Planning and Zoning Commission in June 2006.
The Indictment alleges that BOTTI provided Public Official #1 with benefits, including payments to contractors and merchants in connection with work done at the public official’s residence. The Indictment also alleges that, in approximately December 2003, BOTTI represented that if Public Official # 1 or any other public official tried to interfere with BOTTI, BOTTI would expose the corrupt activities of “17 developers and a good chunk of town hall” in Shelton.
The Indictment further alleges that BOTTI conspired with another person to structure cash deposits and then lied to IRS agents about cash that BOTTI maintained. The Indictment details approximately $147,000 of deposits allegedly structured by BOTTI and his co-conspirator at numerous financial institutions in Connecticut.
Federal law requires all financial institutions to file a Currency Transaction Report (CTR) for currency transactions that exceed $10,000. To evade the filing of a CTR, individuals will often structure their currency transactions so that no single transaction exceeds $10,000. Structuring involves the repeated depositing or withdrawal of amounts of cash less than the $10,000 limit, or the splitting of a cash transaction that exceeds $10,000 into smaller cash transactions in an effort to avoid the reporting requirements. Even if the deposited funds are derived from a legitimate means, financial transactions conducted in this manner are still in violation of federal criminal law.
If convicted on all counts, BOTTI faces a total maximum term of 55 years of imprisonment, a fine of up to $1.75 million, and forfeiture in the amount of the structured funds.
Acting U.S. Attorney Dannehy stated that the investigation is continuing.
An Indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial at which it is the Government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Richard J. Schechter.
News release from Mayor Finch
Acting Police Chief to Organize a Strategic Enforcement Team
New Approach to Capitalize on Success of Neighborhood Enforcement Team
Acting Police Chief Joseph L. Gaudett Jr. today announced the formation of an expanded Strategic Enforcement Team, which will capitalize on the success of the NET Team in making a positive impact on the city’s neighborhoods.
The new SET Team will increase in size from seven police officers and one sergeant, to 12 police officers, one sergeant and one lieutenant. This specialized unit’s role will be to assist the Patrol Division in the reduction of crime, and to improve the quality of life of city residents through the use of short-term crime suppression in targeted areas, dealing with crime “hot-spots” or unusual patrol problems, while aggressively enforcing state laws and city ordinances.
The SET Team will operate in the city’s three patrol sector areas. The point of contact for the SET Team in each sector will be the precinct commander, who will field calls from the public, as well as determine the “target” areas for SET Teams to tackle on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
“This will allow Chief Gaudett to capitalize on the success of the NET Team while expanding its role both within the community and the police department itself,” Mayor Bill Finch said.
“The new structure of this team allows the department to continue to work in the community, while giving precinct commanders more direct input into where the trouble spots may be,” Acting Chief Gaudett said.
Assignment to the SET Team is open to all members of the department. Current members of the NET Team have been reassigned to Patrol, but may bid for positions on the SET Team if they so desire, said Acting Chief Gaudett.